Summermodo: Gadgets Go Outside

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Unlike Silicon Valley's, San Francisco's summer is fake, cold and foggy. Every year that goes by away from my beloved New Jersey, I forget what the season is really about: Fun away from the PC. And sweaty pants.

For most of my adult life, I lived up to the modern stereotype of a geek by staying connected and staying inside and equally pale year round. And I regret it. I don't know why we live like this, when the gadgets are inherently meant to be used outside, capturing photos and videos of the best memories not in front of our Xboxes, and wireless speeds and smartphones are so good at keeping us in touch with work and loved ones while we're traveling. There's no excuse, if you love life.

Except, as I said, my excuse has been San Francisco. Because of the consistent climate, I just always tend to forget about any seasonal change. June hits and we have all these Apple keynotes and whatnot, and then July starts and finishes within something like, oh, 30 days and August will inevitably do the same. Then September happens, which is the spiritual death of Summer for everyone, student or not. I thought to myself, here you go again, taking things for granted. So I sought out the sun. Lisa plotted a vacation, to Kauai and Oahu. Hawaii was personal time. I was doing nothing but camping on the beach, jumping into lava formed tide pools and did not check my email or phone for 4 days. The world did not end. I surfed a little and visited friends like Philippe resting after his big race. I brought minimal technology along the way. I can't say it was good. Apparently, when I ditch the internet, I start binge eating to replace the stimulation of twitter and blogs and email. Once, I ate three meals in a row with major ingredients being SPAM (the meat) before 4pm one day. There was a second, non SPAM dinner after that. And two working days later, 4400 new messages. Christ alive.


I got back last Wednesday and immediately took off with some Gizmodo writers and friends to REAL Watersports at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to learn how to kiteboard, surf, drink a lot of sponsored beers (Heineken Light, thanks for the trip) and ultimately, test beach and water gadgets. And in the proper context of being outside, we realized that half of the gadgets we thought were cool were dumb, and half of the ones we thought were useless were totally impressive. You can't really test out waterproof cameras without spending time with them on the beach or in the ocean. Cases get beat up, lenses get smudged with grime and cam housings cause ridiculous amounts of glare out of the H2O. Nor can you do the same with Jetskis or metal detecting sandals. It's all more subtle than that, but I'll save it all for the reviews, which will come.

The reason the trip was sponsored is that we wanted to get some help from our friends. We invited Joel Johnson of Gizmodo/BoingBoingGadgets fame, John Mahoney from Giz and Pop Sci, and Seth Porges from Popular Mechanics, and invited them to bring as much gear as they could haul down. And Cape Hatteras was an incredible place. Basically, the area is a mecca for kiteboarding and surfing, with the outer banks being exposed to a shallow body of water to the west, almost 30 miles wide in some parts, calm but windy for kiteboarding, and the biggest surf breaks on the Atlantic coast on the other side of the island, which was walking distance away. When it came time to kiteboard, we got slaughtered. It's basically like wakeboarding on a boat while remote controlling a kite that's pulling you. And really, we're not the most athletic crowd, so that didn't help much. Also, it rained a whole bunch. One day, we only got into the water by borrowing some demo skimboards and surfboards from REAL and heading towards the Atlantic. The current was strong, but it was just so satisfying to finally swim in the Atlantic, after all these years. It's a little darker, but because of the gulfstream, a lot warmer. Can't say I missed my wetsuit all that much.

It was muggy, and the summer showers as relentless as the mosquitoes, things that I wouldn't have to deal with in the monotone climate of SF, but nothing compares to the lift of spirits I get spending time with the people who write for this site, eating bbq and testing tech. We all work remotely and generally only see each other when there's a, like, super-serious liveblog or CES show to cover. And I remembered not only how much I love this feeling of...well, summer, but how much different tech is in the context of the heat, the moisture and really the distraction of the real world.


'Till school starts we'll be running more stories about tech and summer. Sometimes involving the ocean sometimes the beach, sometimes just the most tangential of connections. It's already August, but I'll be satisfied if we can celebrate what's left of the most glorious time of the year and what it means to all of the tech nerds here.

Summermodo is a chance for Giz to get outside and test our gear where it belongs.